Last month, the eminent Henri Bourride, our favorite restaurant critic, used the word “thermos” in his review of Bella’s Sports Pub. Actually he capitalized the “t” in the word, something I avoid here for reasons that follow. This week I received a letter from Robert L. Wagner, treasurer and secretary for Thermos® L.L.C. of Rolling Meadows, Ill. This is apparently not the same Robert Wagner who starred with the lovely Stephanie Powers in the 1980s Sidney Sheldon television show, Hart to Hart, which featured crime-busting millionaire detectives Jonathan and Jennifer Hart and their gruff but lovable butler Max. No sir. This is a man looking out for any infringements upon his employer’s registered name. He sent us a copy of the review and highlighted the word with a yellow highlighter. Bourride had written, “we’d go once a month or so, with a Thermos of Bloody Marys and our matching Tommy Hilfiger visors.” (Still waiting to hear from Tommy Hilfiger’s treasurer and secretary.)
Mr. Wagner wrote, “Our company has a statutory and common law rights to the trademark ‘Thermos,’ U.S. Registration No. 67,002. With reference to our rights to the trademark, we invite your attention to the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, reported at volume 321, Federal Reporter (2nd Series) page 577, and to a decision of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, reported at volume 166, United States Patent Quarterly, page 381, in a lawsuit entitled King-Seely Thermos Co. v. Aladdin Industries, Inc. Since the time of the decisions, the ‘Thermos’ trademark has been assigned to Thermos L.L.C.” Wagner closed his letter: “As part of our effort to ensure that the trademark is not misused, we ask that you refrain from capitalizing the ‘t’ in ‘thermos’ in future publications, unless required by general accepted rules of grammar or unless you are referring specifically to Thermos® brand product.”
I didn’t bother to look up the cases cited by Mr. Wagner as I’m sure they were nothing more than the legal products of some liberal activist judges refusing to abide by the Constitution, just like that federal judge in Pennsylvania who denied the existence of an intelligent designer and school children’s rights to learn about Him. (Although, considering that an estimated 99.9 percent of life that has ever existed on Earth is now extinct, I have to question the “intelligence” of that designer.)
Here’s the story behind the Thermos® name as listed on the company’s Web site: “Invented in 1892 by Sir James Dewar, a scientist at Oxford University, the ‘vacuum flask’ was first manufactured for commercial use in 1904, when two German glass blowers formed Thermos GmbH. They held a contest to name the ‘vacuum flask’ and a resident of Munich submitted ‘Thermos,’ which came from the Greek word ‘Therme’ meaning ‘heat.’ ”
And here is Henri’s response to word of the Thermos® company’s admonishment: “Dear Mr. Tom. There’s more than meets the oeil here. In fact, Henri is certain that this little “warning” is actually just the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and bitterly painful lawsuit. You see, Henri has been planning for some time to open a lunchbox museum here in Chico, and undoubtedly Thermos has gotten wind of it and wants him to cease and desist. Excuse moi, Monsieur Thermos, but it won’t be that easy. Henri’s collection—Johnny Quest, Bobby Sherman, Roy Rogers, Campus Queen, to name but a few—need to be, and will be, shared with the public! Bien amicalement, Henri.
I wonder if he has a Hart to Hart lunchbox in his collection?